Now that tax season is over, are you feeling less overwhelmed? Even as I’m asking this question, I already know the answer – there might be less on your to-do list, but I’m going to bet that you probably deal with overwhelm on a daily basis, not just during tax season or busier times during the year.
If you’re anything like the accountant moms that I coach, overwhelm is like a constant hum that sometimes gets ear-piercingly loud, but never completely goes away. On a scale of 1 to 10, it can seem to reach a 10 when you’re dealing with demands coming at you from a million directions, but it can also often feel like it never actually gets below a 5.
Does this sound like you: You’ve just normalized overwhelm to the point that a level of 5 on the overwhelm scale of 1 to 10 is a welcomed relief? Where you can’t even remember your life ever being below a level of 5, especially as an accountant and a mom?
Believe me, I totally get how you feel. Overwhelm is something that I have been studying for years, especially when it comes to accountants, because I too experienced overwhelm on a daily basis and had a difficult time trying to manage it without, ironically, getting overwhelmed trying to figure out how to reduce my overwhelm.
Since it’s something that I have studied and have been able to dramatically reduce, but that I still see almost every accountant still struggling with, I wanted to make sure that you have some ways to reduce feeling overwhelmed in your daily life. It’s honestly one of the reasons that I started this podcast – to help accountant moms learn what works in order to have the balanced, happy lives that we’re all striving for.
Early on in the evolution of this podcast, in episode #27 – How To Overcome Overwhelm – I touched upon the basics of what causes overwhelm and how to overcome it. Since that episode, 3 years ago, I have studied and learned even more about why overwhelm is such an issue for accountants and how to make it easier to reduce overwhelm on a daily basis, no matter what time of year it is.
As I have coached more and more accountant moms, and have applied what I’m going to share with you today, I am excited to be able to help you understand overwhelm in a way that no one is teaching accountants. Honestly, this has been one of the biggest game changers for me both professionally and personally because if overwhelm isn’t addressed properly, burnout is only a matter of time.
I think this is the key to reducing or eliminating burnout in the accounting profession – start with overwhelm first. The reason I say this is because when overwhelm isn’t addressed and is just normalized, it can become like a gateway drug to burnout, hurting you professionally, but also affecting you and your family personally as well.
If you don’t get a handle on overwhelm on a daily basis, you’re setting yourself up for much bigger problems in the future. Believe me, I’m talking from years of experience – your life can become much more manageable when you do what I’m going to suggest for reducing overwhelm on a daily basis.
This week I’m going to discuss why overwhelm is such an issue for accountants and how to make it easier to reduce overwhelm on a daily basis.
Why overwhelm is such an issue for accountants
As I said, overwhelm is something that I’ve been studying for years, especially as an accountant in public accounting for over 30 years now. Just like in the comedy movie “Spinal Tap”, where they joked about their guitar amp being able to be turned up to an 11 out of 10, for quite awhile I felt like my overwhelm was at an 11 as well.
Just like you, I had a lot on my plate with my accounting career and raising my children, especially when I was a single mom for a number of years. There were times that I felt like I was hanging on by a thread, where just the slightest wind was going to snap that thread and have me plummeting to the ground.
I can also remember being on the verge of tears when someone would ask how I was doing, plastering a smile on my face and saying, “I’m good. Just trying to keep my head above water.” The truth was that I was drowning but didn’t want it to appear that I couldn’t handle things, even though I was feeling totally overwhelmed.
If you can relate, then let me help you understand overwhelm in a way that has made all the difference for me. The first thing to address when it comes to why overwhelm is such an issue for accountants, is answering the question – what is overwhelm? We so often say, “I’m so overwhelmed”, but what is overwhelm really?
This is going to sound incredibly simplistic, but if you can understand overwhelm in the way I’m going to share, you’ll be able to turn the dial way down on your own level of overwhelm. The definition that was a game changer for me is that overwhelm is a feeling that you experience in your body and it is caused by your thoughts.
You feel the feeling of overwhelm throughout your body, maybe in your chest, stomach, shoulders, or your head, but it’s a sensation in your body that is experienced internally. Here’s the key – it’s never caused externally – which means that overwhelm is always caused by what you're thinking, not by what’s happening in your life, by how much you have to do, or by anything outside of you.
So why is it so important to understand this definition – that overwhelm is a feeling that you experience in your body and is caused by your thoughts? Because that means that nothing in your life can create your inner experience, which gives you all your power back to reduce overwhelm on a daily basis.
You can actually have even more to do and not feel overwhelmed. You can reduce overwhelm on a daily basis and also reduce the risk of burnout as well.
The reason overwhelm is such an issue for accountants is because, as a profession, our accountant brain actually loves to create the feeling of overwhelm. It thinks that it’s the only, or best option, given whatever our day to day demands are.
So what happens is that you have a long list of things to do and your brain goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. If it’s in fight mode it’s going to want to go, go, go and do more; if it’s in flight mode it’s going to escape and buffer with things like shopping, food, social media, or anything that facilitates an escape; if it’s in freeze mode it’s going to use the feeling of overwhelm to do nothing. If you’ve been dealing with overwhelm, you’ve probably experienced all three – either hustling to get it all done, avoiding by using a distraction, or shutting down and doing nothing.
The truth is that that’s just a human survival mechanism that is coming into play. Whether you’ve written a list of things to do or you’re trying to keep everything organized in your head, when your brain interprets the things you have to do as a threat, it just naturally goes into survival mode.
You may have 10 things on your to-do list that you have to get done and unfortunately, your brain thinks it’s useful to either hurry and hustle, go watch Netflix and eat a sugary snack, or do nothing on the to-do list because what’s the point – there’s going to be more added to it anyway.
So the issue for accountants is that the nature of the work we do, has a built in trigger for our accountant brain to go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. We seem to always have a never-ending list of things to do, whether it’s written down or swirling in our heads, and that survival mechanism of ours is being triggered on a daily basis.
Like I said before, over time, if overwhelm isn’t addressed, it can easily become burnout. I continue to see burnout as a huge problem for accountants because we have normalized overwhelm, we’re trying to manage it in the wrong ways, and we’re trying to deal with it ineffectually.
Thankfully I’ve studied this topic for years and have applied what I’ve learned in my own accountant mom life, so you’re in good hands. If you really want to reduce your overwhelm on a daily basis, I’ve got you.
How to make it easier to reduce overwhelm on a daily basis
As I’ve learned and taught about overwhelm over the years, my understanding and teaching has evolved as well. Although overwhelm is a feeling that is only ever created by our thoughts, and is NOT created by the circumstances in our life and the things we have to do, it’s still important to set ourselves up for success and make it as easy as possible for us to manage our thoughts.
Again, it’s never something outside of you or something in your life that creates your feelings, especially the feeling of overwhelm. But it’s also important to understand that you can make it a lot easier to manage your brain and, therefore, manage your feelings, if you set up your environment and your circumstances for success.
While I’m all for learning how to manage your accountant brain, I’m also all about making it as easy as you can to actually do that. For example, just knowing that to-do lists make it harder to get things done because your brain has to work twice as hard to decide what to do on the list, can help to reduce overwhelm; or the fact that making decisions ahead of time can literally save you from falling into the burnout trap.
My specialty is time management for accountants and I have found that not only understanding how to manage your time, but also exactly how to manage your accountant brain, is incredibly important when you’re setting up your environment and your circumstances for success. Without a fool proof system and a way to make sure you follow that system, overwhelm is just a matter of time.
Another way to set yourself up for success and reduce overwhelm on a daily basis is to make sure your self-confidence is high. One of the biggest reasons why women experience so much overwhelm is because we have a hard time saying no, we’re socially conditioned to be people-pleasers, and we equate our value and worth with how much we get done.
It’s no wonder we feel so overwhelmed when we have thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “I’ve got to do more”. If we operate from this idea that what we do and how much we do is tied to our worth, then the result will be that we do WAY too much.
So here are a few suggestions for what you can do to reduce your overwhelm on a daily basis:
1. Calendaring and white space – again, one of the biggest issues that I see with my time management clients is using a to-do list. You have no idea how hard it makes it for your brain to stay out of the rushed, hurried, busy feeling when you run your life from to-do lists.
When you have a foolproof system like I teach in The Balanced Accountant Program, you reduce the urgency and the reactivity that trips up so many accountants. By learning the system for using a calendar properly (and I stress properly, because most accounts don’t), you are drastically reducing overwhelm because your accountant brain sees the calendar and sees that this is when I’m going to do this and this is when I’m going to do that.
By understanding how I teach time management specifically for accountants, you can finally reduce the feeling of overwhelm because your brain will not go into the fight, flight, or freeze mode. In addition, choosing to put more white space on your calendar means giving yourself more downtime.
When you are more intentional with your time as well as learn the secret to better time management, which is managing your mind, you will be amazed at how much you reduce your feeling of overwhelm.
2. Start saying No more often – if you don’t get a handle on people-pleasing, you will have a very difficult time reducing overwhelm on a daily basis. I see this time and time again – women who have a difficult time saying No, thinking that they’re being kind by saying Yes, and then behind the scenes they’re seething with resentment, mad at themselves and others.
The issue is that the fear of saying No is costing you so much more than you realize because saying Yes to someone else is also saying No to something or someone else – usually that someone else is you. When you believe you have to do it all or that you can’t say No, you’re actually doing that at your own expense.
In order to stay out of overwhelm before it leads to burnout, you have to practice saying No and managing your brain afterwards. You have to give yourself permission to say No more often and you have to give others permission to be upset about it.
It’s okay if other people don’t like you saying No – just remember you’re working on reducing overwhelm for your sake and your children’s.
3. Redirect your brain – your accountant brain is like a well worn vinyl record, with grooves that play whatever practiced thoughts and beliefs that you’ve recorded on it. There comes a time when you have to take responsibility for the record you keep playing.
You may have gotten certain messages from parents, peers, or society, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by not changing the record. You need to start paying attention to your thoughts and learn how to redirect your brain.
You have to learn the skill of noticing what the facts are in a situation and the thoughts you’re having about those facts. For example, it may be a fact that you have 20 things to get done today, but your optional thoughts about that fact will determine whether you feel overwhelmed or not.
Once you begin to take responsibility for feeling overwhelmed based on the thoughts you’re thinking, that’s when you take your power back to reduce overwhelm on a daily basis. There’s no reason why you can’t change the record in your brain and play one that creates a feeling like focused and clear.
So hopefully you now have an idea about why overwhelm is such an issue for accountants as well as my tips for how to make it easier to reduce overwhelm on a daily basis. I promise you that if I can do it, so can you. It’s actually simpler than you think.
If reducing your overwhelm on a daily basis is something you’d like to work on, let me know. I’m here to help.
- If you’re anything like the accountant moms that I coach, overwhelm is like a constant hum that sometimes gets ear-piercingly loud, but never completely goes away.
- If you don’t get a handle on overwhelm on a daily basis, you’re setting yourself up for much bigger problems in the future.
- I continue to see burnout as a huge problem for accountants because we have normalized overwhelm, we’re trying to manage it in the wrong ways, and we’re trying to deal with it ineffectually.